Individual Differences in Memory Disruption Caused by Simulated Cellphone Notifications
In a pilot study and two experiments, we examined the effects of simulated cellphone notifications on memory for categorized lists of words. Participants studied the lists under three levels of cellphone distraction: no notifications, instructions to dismiss incoming notifications without reading them, and instructions to read incoming notifications. We also measured individual differences in working memory capacity, reliance on cellphones, media multitasking, texting, video gaming, and musical experience. Multiple measures of word memory were assessed, including word recall, category recall, words-per-category recall, and ratio-of-repetitions. In general, memory performance declined as the level of distraction increased. Dismissing notifications impaired relational processing as measured by category recall. Reading notifications impaired both relational processing and individual-item processing (as measured by words-per-category recall). Memory performance increased with working memory capacity and cellphone reliance, and decreased with texting experience. However, no one was immune from the distracting effects of cellphone notifications on memory. The dataset includes the word lists, notifications, individual-difference questionnaires, and raw data from the pilot study and both experiments. The dataset also includes a supplemental summary of the results for the ratio-of-repetitions measure for the two experiments.